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Labor’s Budget fails regional Australia with cruel cuts to regional connectivity

The Albanese Government’s Budget has delivered cruel cuts to the Coalition’s ground breaking investments in regional connectivity including for disaster resilience, further evidence of Labor’s disregard for rural and regional Australia.

Once again under Labor, regional Australia is paying the price.

After the Coalition delivered a $811.8 million Connecting Regional Australia initiative in the 2022 March Budget, Labor’s so-called Better Connectivity Plan for Regional and Rural Australia both axes and redirects funding from a number of important Coalition programs, resulting in a budget cut to regional communications of at least $101 million over four years (PBS p31).

The Budget papers show that:

  • A $106 million program to boost the resilience of telecommunications infrastructure for natural disasters in vulnerable locations (March 2022 Budget) has been axed, with a much smaller allocation of $30.4 million made to the Department of Home Affairs for resilience initiatives including for telecommunications infrastructure.  This is a heartless decision at a time when so many regional communities are in the grip of flood disaster.
  • $30 million for various internet affordability measures for regional and rural communities (March 2022 Budget) has been cut to just $4.7 million;
  • $5 million for emerging technology trials has been axed;
  • $418 million for open access or multi-carrier mobile expansion (March 2022 Budget) has been cut to $400 million;
  • the Mobile Black Spots Program has been cut by $37.5 million, the lowest level of investment in the MBSP since 2015; and
  • whilst adopting the Coalition’s plan to extend the Peri-Urban Mobile Program (PUMP) to regional cities as the Opposition called for, Labor is providing only half of the $78.5 million committed by the Coalition.

The Albanese Government has irresponsibly hit taxpayers with the $2.4 billion bill for a further expansion of the NBN (fibre to the premises on demand), adopting the Coalition’s rollout model, which should have been funded by NBN Co.  Labor has also deceptively re-badged many Coalition investments as their own including a $480 million investment in faster fixed wireless and satellite broadband. (Click on links to see previous media statements.)

Labor’s Budget also confirms a $20 million cut to the Coalition’s 5G Innovation Initiative which will hurts jobs and small business and a paltry commitment to online safety.  Labor’s commitment of just $6 million over three years for digital literacy and online safety awareness in schools (p164 BP2) is totally inadequate.

Prior to the election, the Coalition committed to a $23 million eSafety Schools package; strong parental control software for devices through a binding industry code under the Online Safety Act; a further $10 million for the eSafety Commissioner to deliver improved support services for victims; legislating the Social Media (Anti-Trolling) laws to hold social media companies to account for online abuse and a further $2 million under the Online Safety Grants Program for women and girls in CALD communities.

Labor was missing in action on online safety when in opposition and its Budget shows that online safety, including in schools, continues to be a low priority.

3 November 2022

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